Show Report: UK Audio Show 2023 Part One

Posted on 16th October, 2023

Show Report: UK Audio Show 2023 Part One

In the first instalment of his two-part feature, Jay Garrett brings you all the fun of this superb, StereoNET-sponsored annual hi-fi show…

As summer fades into autumn, the British hi-fi season kicks back in with two annual shows taking place within just days of one another. In this report, we’ll look at the UK Audio Show 2023, which was held at Staverton Park Hotel, in the English Midlands, on October 7th and 8th. In its twenty-sixth year, this show proved just as vibrant as ever – and StereoNET was proud to be its exclusive official media partner.

The UK Audio Show has a very distinct feel, being very much enthusiast-driven, rather than manufacturer- or dealer-centred. For this reason, it attracts a diverse variety of audiophiles from all around the country – there’s an especially large presence of northern hi-fi fans, for example. And the products on display are a combination of weird and wonderful – you’ll find things on show that don’t pop up in any other events, and also a good amount of exotic designs, handbuilt and/or bespoke products. Plus also lots of interesting accessories.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

This show is known for its friendly, down-to-earth and relaxed atmosphere. It’s less claustrophobic than some other UK shows as far as visitors are concerned, and the focus is generally on affordable, useable systems, rather than aspirational (i.e. expensive) exotica. Indeed the easy-going vibe created by the exhibitors and attendees alike stands out – and there are even UKAS promo droids ambling around the ground floor giving you a friendly glance, before navigating around you! Every year, there’s always a good number of collaborations between exhibitors, which further underlines the spirit of camaraderie.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Comprising fifty-five indoor demonstration spaces and twenty trade stands, the UK Audio Show 2023 managed to offer affordable hi-fi and automotive systems right up to flagship products. Here, you also find boutique British brands and first-time international visitors alongside retailers and luxury and national distributors. Moreover, exclusive events such as The Audio Consultants' Live Vs Recorded demonstration highlighted what many hi-fi enthusiasts and music fans are attempting to capture through their own systems. This is why I have often dubbed the UK Audio Show as a 'music-first' event.

3 Square Audio

3 Square Audio's Ayal standmount loudspeakers can always be relied upon to make a good sound, and this was another case in point being driven by NVA monoblocks and passive preamplifier.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

3 Square Audio also makes racks, plinths, and bespoke furniture. At the UK Audio Show 2023, the company demonstrated its new rack designed to accommodate Audite Acoustics' isolation platforms.

Acoustic Energy

Following the prototype's first outing at High End Munich, Acoustic Energy's Corinium is now in production with shipping imminent.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Apparently, the wonderful metallic British Racing Green was supposed to be a one-off demo colour, but has been so popular it might get a limited edition run. However, it will also be available in more conventional finishes. Corinium features a single carbon-fibre mid (120mm) and twin bass (140mm) drivers partnered with a 29mm Japanese silk dome tweeter encased in Tetoron.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Chris Jones' Long After You Are Gone and Daft Punk's Giorgio by Moroder sounded excellent via the Naim 200 series electronics. Corinium will cost £6,400 in standard finish or £7,000 in that beautiful BRG paintwork.

AF Audio

All manner of interconnect, speaker and, power cables and system tuners were available here.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Having experienced a range of AF Audio's offerings, they offer fantastic value and a personal touch you won't get from larger brands. It is well worth reaching out to Andrew Foster should you have specific requirements for your system, too.

Air Audio x connected-fidelity

Air Audio's stand had the rotating eye-candy display of Hana's excellent cartridges, including the latest Umami Blue model alongside the range-topping Umami Red, which have both been reviewed by StereoNET.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

The credit card-tempting Sorane arms are quite something. Also, connected-fidelity products were on show, including the brilliant Float series of isolators, which have also graced these virtual pages.

Alchris Audio x CTC

The Classic Turntable Company (CTC) has Aerosmith's Steve Tyler amongst its customers, and for good reason. Not just a specialist restorer of Garrard turntables, CTC is more a bespoke service that manufactures a whole range of parts, including the new metal chassis as enjoyed by the 301 on show in the Alchris room, which was set into a solid birch ply plinth and fitted with a Shindo platter. The price was not as eyewatering as I expected either, at a rather reasonable £5,000, including the SME 3009 tonearm. That is great value, considering all the obvious work that has gone into this piece of acoustic art.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Spinning Jack Johnson's In Between Dreaming and Charlie Antolini's Knock Out 2K to the Alchris Audio V-200 speakers (£4,200), the sound was everything I have come to expect from Alan Clark's knowhow, namely fantastic dynamics, a clean yet punchy low-end married to an expansive top. Electronics in the Alchris system included an Aavik U-380 integrated amplifier, Yaqin CD player and Cambridge Audio CXN streamer.

Alphason Audio x Solid Sounds

Vinyl veterans will remember Alphason tonearms from the mid nineteen eighties – highly regarded at the time, they swiped many sales from the likes of Linn and SME.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Now, the brand is back with founder and designer Mike Knowles demonstrating his updated flagship HR-200S arm (£5,895) on a beautiful Garrard 401 turntable – it made a great job of the banging drum’n’bass of Etherwood.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

The vinyl front end was played out through Paul Knipe’s striking-looking and fine-sounding Solid Sounds HEX3 open baffle loudspeakers. One of the show’s many nice surprises, this room was well worth spending time in. You should soon be able to enjoy similar in the Spinning Room showroom due to open in Leeds.

Art Audio

Art Audio lived up to its name with components that were as much a feast for the eyes as they were for the ears.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

A pair of Art Impression Diamond 10 loudspeakers were at the end of a PS Audio CD player, plugged into an Art Audio Conductor preamplifier and Adagio monoblocks.

The Audio Consultants

The Live vs Recorded demonstration was quite something to experience, and may no doubt have been skipped past by day visitors.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

This experiment was performed in front of an audience and consisted of a very live performance, which was recorded and then swiftly mixed and mastered to CD and then replayed later the same day through a system featuring GoldenEar speakers, Gutwire cables, Hegel Viking CD player and H600 integrated with a second system including Luxman electronics and Origin Live turntable.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

While there was evidence of some judicial levelling and vocal compression, the results were nonetheless extremely impressive as – for this listener at least – the atmosphere, vibrancy, personality and intimacy of the performance were well captured.

Audio Dreams x The Rock Doc

A thirty-year-old Townshend Rock 3 turntable hooked up to some Italian loudspeakers celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary, with a special finish that all managed to sound bang up-to-date? That's Matt 'Rock Doc' McNulty's room, and no mistake!

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

The fully refurbished Rock TT, for that is what Matt does, sported an awesome finish – and I'm not just saying that due to the orange hue. The turntable was loaded with a new old stock Zeta arm armed with a Benz Wood SL cart, which was fed into EAM Lab electronics, including an Element C201 preamplifier (£2,700), 362 230W transistor power amp (£4,000) and LC 106 power filter (£1,440).

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

The Sigma Acoustics Monitor T10 speakers (£3,990) boasted White Gold internal wiring. After being treated to Mark Cohn's Silver Thunderbird and cuts from The Alan Parsons Project’s I Robot, I wanted to wrap this system up and take it home.

Audio Note UK

Audio Note UK had its standard three rooms at the UK Audio Show, with one dedicated to their renewed AX bookshelf speaker this year.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

One of the other rooms hosted a system featuring its AN E Field Coil speakers, TT3 turntable with matching PSU 3, ArmThree/ii tonearm with IQ 1 Red MC cartridge, M5 step-up transformer and Meishu Kappelmeister 300B amplifier.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Meanwhile, another housed the TT2 Deluxe turntable, ArmOne/ii tonearm equipped with the IQ 3 MM cartridge, M2 phono stage, P2SE signature stereo power amplifier, M2 line preamp and AX2 speakers.

Audio Wave

Audio Wave apparently cut its teeth in the high end auto hi-fi world. This would go some way to understanding the design of the amplifiers in the room, including the slender CR-30X Class A 50W power amplifiers, handmade right down to the components on the PCBs, including op-amps and the copper rod heatsinks.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

If you prefer, you can opt for the more potent Class AB versions for just £32,000 per pair. In case you were wondering, the amps on show had no issue in driving a pair of Kerr Acoustics K320 MK3 speakers.

Black Rhodium

Black Rhodium had a selection of its well-reviewed and highly regarded cables on show, alongside the Oyaide accessories that imports from Japan. The Derby-based company has made and distributed high-quality cables since 2002. Graham Nalty also held a special UK Audio Show prize draw, and got StereoNET’s global editor-in-chief David Price to choose the lucky winners.

Connecting Music Distribution

Haud Yer Wheesht! That was the calling card handed to me by Connecting Music's Carlo Marengo as I quickly grabbed video footage on my first day around the show. It later transpired that this was one of several phrases he had learnt during his time at the company HQ in Edinburgh.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

CMD looks after brands such as Bricasti, Mastersound, Blumenhofer, Tiglon and Sparkos. One room sported a system featuring Bricasti's new M19 SACD transport (£12,000) which, as part of its credentials, outputs DSD (DoP) via the usual digital outputs as well as I2S output via RJ45 socket to accommodate Bricasti's DACs such as the M1S2 on show here. The system powered by the Bricasti M20 preamp and M25 power amp via the diamond tweeter-equipped Art Emotion Diamond 8 loudspeakers (£21,000). A most impressive digital system that managed not to sound digital-based at all.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Meanwhile, a second Connecting Music room hosted Blumenhofer Acoustic Genuin FS 3 MKII speakers paired with a Mastersound Evo 300B integrated amplifier. Streaming was by way of a LucasAudioLabs unit plumbed into a Bricasti M3 DAC. Power was sorted, thanks to IsoTek. The Blumenhofer speakers sport a 1-inch compression driver with a mylar membrane and a 10-inch paper woofer crossing over at 1.2kHz. This speaker has recently been revisited after a decade in service. The result is the new drivers as well as new membranes and a brand new horn developed to match the compression driver behind it and the bigger woofer. We're told that the frequency range is 40Hz-20kHz, ± 2dB at a tube amp-friendly efficiency of 92dB.

Coppice Audio x Audio Detail

Coppice Audio unleashed their BG1 (£19,995) loudspeakers, which were rocking a pair of 8-inch Beyma bass drivers in a 150-litre reflex-loaded machined solid ash cabinet, while mids were handled by a prototype Lowther full-range unit. The external crossover is solderless so that it can be fine-tuned, with Coppice Audio underlining that there was not a single PCB between the source and the speakers.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Mark Mainwearing-Wright (above) is somewhat of a tube wizard and supplied the Audio Detail PX25 push-pull amplifier (£18,000) for the UK Audio Show. This benefits from adjustable feedback and interstage transformers, plus a separate power supply, resulting in 16 to 17 Watts output.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

This was fed by Audio Detail's 101D DHT pre amp and 101 DHT Phono stage, the latter nourished by the striking Amari LP32 fitted with a 12-inch arm, which was completed by a Hanna Umami Red cartridge. Charlie Byrd's Old Hymns sounded absolutely sublime. If the BG1 speakers were too large for your room, smaller versions may well be on their way.

Driving Sounds

Driving Sounds Magazine is the only UK magazine focused on getting the most out of your in-car audio. Parked up inside the County Suite – no canvas lean-to outdoor scenario here – Driving Sounds had three vehicles on display, including a Porsche 911 964 loaded with Audison Thesis speakers, a Hyundai i20N sporting a selection of goodies from Audison Prima and Hertz Mille Pro.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Finally, for the EV-fans, there was a Tesla Model 3 featuring an Audison Prima/Forza system installed (with the ability to switch between the 3-way and 2-way system so you could evaluate your preference). For those now weened on single Bluetooth speakers, aside from headphones, in-car audio may be the first hint at what stereo audio can do, and for this reason we salute the likes of Driving Sounds and the ICE industry.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

As we have seen more recently, the lines between in-home and in-car stereo are starting to blur with established hi-fi brands such as KEF, Focal, Bowers & Wilkins, McIntosh and Sonus faber crossing over to automotive, whilst the aforementioned Audio Wave demonstrating that its amps can power hi-fi loudspeakers. The future is still unwritten.

Emilen Audio

Emilen utilised its active ES-1 Reference speakers, Equinox line preamp, Equinox MC phonostage and Lumley Audio Stratosphere MK3 turntable.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Judged purely on how this rig looked, most assumed a purely analogue system was what was playing. However, the DSP-controlled ES-1 speakers hide crossover-less Class D amp modules, but the sound gave nothing away of its cleverness.

Falcon Acoustics

Falcon Acoustics had a system at each end of the company’s well-appointed room.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

One had a pair of M40 loudspeakers fed by a MoFi turntable and phonostage linked to a Balanced Audio Technology (BAT) VK80 preamplifier and VK-56SE valve power amplifier.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

At the other end, their Q7 LS3/5a-esque Complete at Home monitor speakers were pushed along by a Primare 35 and CD5; this made an effortlessly fine sound with KD Lang's One Day I Walk.

GoldenEar x AudioQuest

A no-nonsense approach saw GoldenEar's BRX Reference standmount speakers and the compact Forcefield 3 Subwoofer hooked up to a HEED integrated amp and DAC linked by AudioQuest's Type-9 speaker cable.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

This was perfect for the room and sounded much larger than the minimalist system would suggest.

G Point Audio

G Point Audio went large in one of its rooms with a Pre-audio DE-1800N turntable fitted with a parallel tracking air-bearing tonearm and BLDC low voltage motor (£5,400).

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

This fed Fonica International Flag L isodynamic speakers (~£10,000) via a Circle Labs P300 preamplifier and M200 power amplifier. Streaming sounds came by way of a Lampizator Atlantic DAC fed by an excellent LucasAudioLabs streamer and PSU.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Host Greg Dygala pointed out that his usually well-treated and dressed room was pretty much naked as the outstanding Fonical International speakers sounded surprisingly good in this untreated space. This bodes well for those who do not expect to install room treatment panels in their home to achieve the sound quality they heard in the store demo room.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

In G Point Audio's other room, we were treated to Diptyque's DP140 MKII isodynamic speakers driven by an OSV HT-50 hybrid integrated amplifier, fed by a LucasAudioLabs networked audio via Lampizator DAC. I was told that the OSV amplifier has a valve-based preamp circuit that feeds a bipolar Class AB power amplifier section.

Henley Audio

Looking around Henley Audio's room, we were spoilt for choice with static displays, including the eye-catching Musical Fidelity M8xTT turntable and LS3/5A speakers, WiiM streamers, HiFi Rose components, Sumiko cartridges and Pro-Ject tonearms.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

Meanwhile, the demo system featured Klipsch's admirable Forte IV speakers paired with the hot property that is Musical Fidelity's A1 amplifier.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

The analogue front end was a Pro-Ject X8 turntable fitted with a 9CC tonearm and Ortofon Cadenza Bronze MC cartridge, fed through the recently reviewed Lehmann Black Cube SE II SV Edition phono stage. Speaking to Simon from Henley Audio, they purposely put together a “real world system”, and, to my ears, it was doing a great job.

HiFi Lounge

The only time I heard Keith Don't Go in the last two shows, it happened here – thankfully, Rumer's Slow followed as a great-sounding palate cleanser. Run by Paul and Wendy Clark, HiFi Lounge is located in Biggleswade, just an hour north of me and is a very welcoming store host to some top brands.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

For the UK Audio Show 2023, HiFi Lounge brought along the effortlessly brilliant-sounding DeVore Fidelity Orangutan 0/93 speakers (£9,998) at the end of a Western Electric 91E 300B single-ended valve amplifier and a gorgeous champagne finish. The front end consisted of a dCS Lina Streamer / DAC + Master Clock, Melco N1 Server, Melco Network switch and Atlas cables along with ISOL-8 Substation HC and LC (High Current/ Low Current) power optimisation with everything supported by Solidsteel furniture.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

This was not a small room, but once Paul grabbed a large, think rug from the shop, it was filled with the acoustic equivalent of a warm hug. That's not to say this system lacked punch and dynamics, far from it – instead, it was one of those rooms I could have curled up and spent the day in.

Hi-Fi Riff

YouTube has many things to be blamed for – and the latest comes in the form of StereoNET alumni David Price and Mike Evans' Hi-Fi Riff channel. Here, these two stereo geeks and long-time friends chat unscripted about a piece of hi-fi equipment in a (mostly) friendly way – kind of like an audiophile Odd Couple.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

The UK Audio Show 2023 saw the guys take the format live, sharing a largish suite with seventy or so audience members. Kicking off with the dubiously chosen Do Ya Think I'm Sexy by Rod Stewart, the duo chatted about a pair of vintage Wharfedale E30 loudspeakers, which was being pushed along by a Musical Fidelity A1 room-heater/integrated amp, and Sony PS-8750 turnable, from way back in 1975.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

A second system consisted of a pair of Amstrad Laboratory Series LS101 micro hi-fi speakers driven by Chord's Mojo and Anni. This was an admittedly lop-sided system – the ancient Amstrad speakers cost £20 on eBay, while the Chord front end very much didn’t! The somewhat tongue-in-cheek dem showed that decent stereo sound doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. A thoroughly enjoyable meander, it has to be said.

IAS Beaulieu

Created in the late nineteen seventies by David Hall and Alan Willis, the IAS Beaulieu 40r was launched at the High Fidelity Spring Exhibition at the Cunard Hotel in 1980. Fast forward to the UK Audio Show 2023, and its new incarnation was attracting many admirers.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

The Beaulieu 40r (£40,000) has been refreshed and revived by Carl Beckwith with assistance from David Hall. The latest version sports a 10-inch Volt bass driver paired with a SEAS midrange and Accuton ceramic tweeter. The speaker cabinets sit upon spring-isolated plinths that also house their high-specced crossovers. A programme of orchestral and operatic pieces was the order of the day here, and all sounded appropriately huge and refined – especially when the pipe organ played.

Icon Audio

Icon Audio's display was a tube fetishist's dream, with a vast range of wares on display. The demo system was no less valve catnip with Klipsch Heritage Cornwall speakers powered by Icon Audio's Stereo 300 MKII integrated amplifier with tunes provided by a Marantz CD player.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

For those who wish to keep the sounds to themselves, I was directed to Icon Audio's HP205D, a head-amp that utilises, if you haven't already guessed, a WE 205D directly heated triode. As more tube-savvy readers know, this valve type was created in the 1920s and could be the great-grandparent of all audio valves. Icon Audio chose this as it is said to be very linear in operation and low impedance. If you find the 205D not to your taste, the HP205D will accept a 300B valve instead.

Kerr Acoustic x Townshend Audio

This combination of exhibitors made me smile when I read the announcement. Not only do I admire both brands immensely, I saw that they were sharing the Nottingham Suite, which I hoped meant that the Kerr Acoustic K200 (£19,995) speakers could stretch their figurative legs – and I was right. Jes Kerr's K200 have bragging rights to being the first commercial product to feature Volt's new 10-inch radial bass driver, which has been married with a 75mm midrange dome and a true ribbon tweeter.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

The drivers sit in a cabinet crafted from 24mm Baltic ply. Naturally, the large standmount monitors were sat on Townshend Seismic Podiums. The demo system also featured an orange Townshend Rock turntable dubbed Zesty (courtesy of Matt 'Rock Doc' McNulty), and the company's magnificent Allegri Reference Preamplifier plumbed into a Chord Ultima power amp. Meanwhile, the Rock utilised a Longdog Audio MCJ3 Hybrid phono stage. However, it was streamed tunes via LucasAudioLabs components that were doing the work on my visits. The club sounds of Function's Voiceprint proved, amongst others, that those Volts combined with transmission line loading should get flares flapping and windows rattling. Great stuff, as always.

Longdog Audio

It appeared that Longdog Audio (LDA) is still being pestered about producing more of its 3-way acrylic open-baffle floorstanding speakers that use Mundorf and Jantzen crossover components, with a couple of people asking LDA's Nick Gorham how much they were, and if they will ever be available.

UK Audio Show 2023 Report

It is understandable though, as what was apparently a “lockdown project” looked and sounded fantastic at the end of a Technics SL-1200G sat on Critical Mass Systems isolation footers. This was loaded with a Hana Unami Red cartridge sat in a DS Audio headshell, with the vinyl held by and a Black Ravioli Record Ground. The Tech deck was attached to an LDA MCJ3 Hybrid valve phono stage, Music First Baby Reference V2 preamp, then out to LDA P6100M monoblocks before presenting via those striking speakers.

Special thanks to Steve Crowe for the additional images.

Head Over For Part Two!

Remember to check out the full image gallery

    Jay Garrett's avatar

    Jay Garrett

    StereoNET UK’s Editor, bass player, and resident rock star! Jay’s passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

    Posted in:Hi-Fi HiFi Show
    Tags: uk audio show  uk audio show 2023  longdog audio  kerr acoustic  townshend audio  icon audio  ias  hifi riff  hifi lounge  henley audio  g point audio  golden ear technology  falcon acoustics  emilen audio  driving sounds  coppice audio  audio detail  malvern audio research  connecting music distribution  black rhodium  audio wave  audio note  audio dreams  the rock doc  the audio consultants  art audio  alphason  solid sounds  alchris audio  classic turntable company 

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